Pewee, a name given to several species of American flycatchers of the subfamily tyran-ninm. The common pewee, or Phoebe bird (sayornis fuscus, Baird), is 7 in. long and 9 1/2 in alar extent; the general color of the plumage is dull olive-brown above, darkest on the head, and yellowish white below; quills brown, most of the wing feathers edged with dull white; tail forked, the outer edge of the lateral feather dull white; bill and feet black.
Common Pewee (Sayornis fuscus).
This lively species is found throughout eastern North America, from Newfoundland to Florida. In the middle states it arrives from the south early in April, and gets out a first brood by the middle of May, and a second by the beginning of August; it leaves again for the south in October, migrating by night. The nest resembles that of the barn swallow, being made of mud, grasses, and moss, lined with softer materials, and attached to a rock, wall, or rafter; they repair the same nest year after year; the eggs, four to six, are white, with a few reddish spots at the larger end; the young are hatched out on the 13th day, and leave the nest in 16 more; the parents show great affection for them, snapping the bill and darting boldly toward all intruders. Its flight is rapid, with frequent sailings; it is fond of vibrating the tail, erecting the crest, and making a tremulous motion with the wings; it feeds on insects, which it takes with great dexterity on the wing, swallowing them whole, and ejecting the hard parts like the swallows and goatsuckers. - The wood pewee (contopus virens, Cab). is 6 1/2 in. long, and 10 3/4 in extent of wings; the general color above is brownish olive, brownish black on the head; two pale grayish bands across the wings; a narrow white circle around the eyes; greenish yellow below, with a grayish tinge on the throat and breast.
It is fond of the most gloomy forests, but is sometimes seen in shady orchards, and in the autumn near the edges of still ponds surrounded by woods. The flight is swift, with sudden sweeps in pursuit of its insect prey; it seizes with certainty moths and other nocturnal insects when it is very dark; it feeds sometimes also on berries. Its notes are low, mellow, and sweetly melancholy when in its favorite haunts; its common name, like that of others of the subfamily, is derived from its utterance of the syllables " pe-wee," singly or repeated. It reaches the middle states about the 10th of May, going as far north as New Brunswick, south to New Granada, and west as far as the high central plains. The nest is delicate in form and structure, covered by lichens, and so apparently a part of the branch to which it is attached as to be detected with difficulty; the eggs are four or five, light yellowish, with reddish spots at the larger end; in the middle states two broods are raised in a season; it boldly attacks man, beast, or bird approaching its nest. - Many other dark-colored flycatchers are called " pewee," as for instance the short-legged pewee (G. Richardsonii, Cab.), much resembling the last species, and found on the western coast of North America.
Wood Pewee (Contopus virens).